Texans need win over Colts to clinch AFC South


Texans need win over Colts to clinch AFC South

HOUSTON (AP) Houston's blowout loss at New England exposed a variety of flaws, leaving the Texans with plenty to work on before they host Indianapolis on Sunday in a suddenly critical AFC South game.

With a win, the Texans (11-2) can clinch their second straight division title.

``We've got issues,'' coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday, a day after the 42-14 drubbing by the Patriots. ``We've got to stop people better, we've got to move the ball better, and we've got to get rid of penalties on special teams ... we've got to play better than we've played.''

Cracks in Houston's once dominant defense have surfaced in the last month. The Texans defense looked good last week in handling the struggling Titans in a 24-10 win. But Houston has given up a combined 1,402 yards and 110 points in its three other games this month, which also included overtime wins against the Jaguars and Lions.

They expected to get a boost Monday with the return of top cornerback Johnathan Joseph , who returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Instead, the secondary allowed Tom Brady to dominate the game by throwing for 296 yards and four scores.

The Texans hope Monday night's game will help them in the future.

``It's a teaching moment,'' rookie linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. ``This is a good team and we can't slack off. Too many penalties and things like that, beating ourselves. We've got to be able to ... get to the passer and help out our secondary. We can't get gashed in the run. We've just got to get better.''

Kubiak agreed and noted that the major difference in Monday's game was that New England took advantage of all of its opportunities for big plays, and Houston failed at almost all of its chances.

``It's part of the learning curve, I guess,'' he said. ``It was a tough lesson to learn last night.''

Kubiak didn't like the way his offense played in the second half last week against Tennessee, and was disappointed that the unit continued to struggle Monday night. Houston finished with 323 yards against the Patriots, but had trouble finishing drives.

``My biggest disappointment right now offensively is our inability to stay on the field on third down,'' he said after his team was just 4 of 14 on third down tries Monday. ``You have to step up and make those plays, regardless of whether it's a catch, a throw, a run, whatever it is, to stay out there.''

Houston has played three straight road games and is looking forward to playing at home for the first time since Nov. 18.

Instead of hanging their heads after their most lopsided loss, the Texans, who still have the AFC's best record, are looking forward to their next challenge in facing talented rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts.

``We're 11-2 and we still control our destiny,'' defensive end J.J. Watt said. ``We control everything. We are going to go back and focus on winning the division and locking that up. Everything is still in front of us.''

Kubiak is confident his team will bounce back this week because of everything that is at stake. Houston responded with a resounding 43-13 win over the Ravens a week after their only other loss - a 42-24 defeat by the Packers.

``Fortunately, we've only had this trouble twice this year, where we've had to turn around and go back after getting beat,'' he said. ``That's a good thing ... we've got a great opportunity ahead of us and we need to stay focused on that.''

NOTES: Tight end Garrett Graham, who missed Monday's game with a concussion, should return this week. ... Kubiak said that OT Derek Newton, out for the last two games with a knee injury, is doing well, but he isn't sure if he'll be ready to play on Sunday.

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

Philadelphia Eagles lineman Michael Bennett has been indicted on felony abuse for allegedly pushing an elderly NRG Stadium worker during Super Bowl LI.

Bennett was indicted by the Harris County, Texas district attorney's office for injury to the elderly — which is intentionally and knowingly causing injury to a person 65 years or older, according to a press release from the Harris County Sheriffs' Office.

A warrant has been issued for Bennett's arrest.

The 66-year-old paraplegic stadium worker was attempting to control field access when Bennett allegedly pushed her. 

The maximum penalty Bennett faces is ten years in prison in addition to a $10,000 fine.


Bennett — whose brother Martellus played in that Super Bowl for New England — was a member of the Seattle Seahawks during the incident and was in attendance as a noncompetitive player.

The NFL has been made aware of the situation and is looking into the matter, according to Pro Football Talk.

The 32-year-old 10-year NFL veteran could potentially face NFL discipline under the league's personal conduct policy.